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At This Hour
First Civilians Leave Mariupol Steel Plant As Shelling Resumes; Kinzinger Introduces "Red Line" Resolution For U.S. Military Action; Special Grand Jury To Be Seated In Trump Election Probe In Georgia. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 02, 2022 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We begin with big moves in Ukraine. Evacuations are supposed to be resuming today in the besieged city of Mariupol. The mayor there is saying that the process is very difficult. It is dependent, of course, on Russian cooperation.
And we have all seen as we've been tracking this, what that has meant to this point, also saying the Russians are in his words, creating obstacles with these evacuations. Some 100 civilians left the Mariupol steel plant over the weekend, seeing daylight for the first time in weeks.
Hundreds more remain inside the complex, all including women, children, and the elderly.
All of this is happening as Russian forces resumed shelling attacks on the massive plant. And new satellite images are showing how Russian forces have just destroyed if you look here, destroyed almost every building over that complex for the last month.
Yet Ukraine's military is fighting back today, Ukraine saying the forces have conducted drone strikes to destroy two Russian patrol boats off of Snake Island. Let's begin with CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.
He's live in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine were some of these evacuees are expected to be arriving. Nick, what's the very latest?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, Kate, just in the last few minutes, a number of vehicles have come into here from different parts of the south area here.
Actually, this bus behind me, the driver just got out and said that they were from Berdyans'k but also some of the passengers from Mariupol as well.
Now that doesn't necessarily mean this is part of the broader humanitarian corridor that has been established by the United Nations and the Red Cross that was supposed to be getting underway earlier on today.
In fact, we've seen people emerging over the past days and weeks by their own resources. And that probably includes this bus here as well. And it takes some days to get from Mariupol where, you know, there's been intense shelling over the past weeks or so through a variety of Russian checkpoints all the way to here at Zaporizhzhia, where evacuees center does await them.
Now, the hope had been today that the Red Cross and United Nations after a variety of meetings all the way through Moscow to Kyiv will be able to establish that humanitarian corridor and bring out different groups of evacuees so much focus on those of course caught in the Azovstal steel plants on the ground there for frankly, weeks bombarded intensely rarely seeing daylight, startling images then slowly emerging over the last 48 hours.
The Russian defense ministry says that over 100 have got out and indeed 11, they claimed chose to stay in separatist territory. But even the Russian Minister Defense amid are on their way here.
Their progress, though is unclear and they will be joined by tens of thousands of other civilians that could be as many as 100,000 in Mariupol, in appalling conditions, those tens of thousands also hoping to be part of this United Nations convoy moving their way to here in Zaporizhzhia.
And as I say, what we're seeing here bit by bit are people who are emerging from areas around Mariupol, Mariupol, itself over the past days, not part of this broader effort that's garnered so much international attention.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that at 8 o'clock this morning, they would begin to come here, my understanding is that that initial wave from Azovstal steel factory is on its way but still in the towns on the way to here, possibly still with some Russian checkpoints to get through.
But a lot of expectation here that finally the agonizing tragedy of those caught inside Mariupol might be coming to an end courtesy of this U.N. escorted convoy.
BOLDUAN: Yes, Nick we will see. Nick, thank you so much.
So as Congress is also considering right now sending billions of dollars more to help Ukraine, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Warsaw today meeting with Poland's president.
And that, of course follows for high profile visits Ukraine to meet with President Zelenskyy over the weekend, CNN's Lauren Fox is live in Washington with more on this. Lauren, what are you hearing about this visit?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a significant visit because of the timing of when it is occurring. This comes just a few days after the President sent up that $33 billion in supplemental requests for military and humanitarian aid. The House Speaker making it clear to polish allies and to the
president in Ukraine that the U.S. stands firmly behind Ukraine in this fight against Russia, and that Republicans and Democrats are united in getting this funding as quickly as possible to Ukraine.
But the question still remains here in Washington, how fast that funding can move because the House of Representatives is out of session this week. That's why there are members traveling in Europe this week.
There is a concern that this may not be able to come together in the next couple of days but may actually take several more weeks for Republicans and Democrats to work out some significant differences about where this money is going so.
So House Speaker Pelosi trying to send this message that the U.S. is unified in getting this money to Ukraine. But clearly obstacles remain, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Lauren, thank you so much, much more to come on that.
There are also growing fears still, that Vladimir Putin may resort to using chemical and nuclear weapons in Ukraine. And because of that, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, has just said that he's announced a resolution to authorize U.S. military force in Ukraine if Russia does take such a step. CNN's Natasha Bertrand is joining us now with this. Natasha, what more is Adam Kinzinger saying about this?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Kate. So essentially, what he wants to do is he wants to give the President the option to intervene militarily if Russia does use weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons on Ukrainian soil.
And what he said yesterday is that this resolution would not compel the President to take any kind of military action in that, in the event, they do use those weapons, but it would give him the necessary flexibility he believes, to use that option. If he decides it is necessary. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): -- how the president to do it, it just says if it is used, he has that leverage. It gives him you know, a better flexibility, but also it is a deterrent to Vladimir Putin. Prior to World War II, there were moments nobody ever wanted to get involved in eventually came to realize they had to. I hope we don't get to that point here. But we should be ready if we do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERTRAND: Kinzinger introduced here does not say specifically, that the U.S. should put boots on the ground, for example, in Ukraine, if these weapons were used, it comes right up to that line. But it says that it would essentially allow the President to use any
kind of force he deems necessary to try to deter and prevent Vladimir Putin from using such weapons again in the future. So what he's trying to do here is make sure that the President is not boxed in.
However, the President has said that there would be a response by the U.S. and the international community if they did use those weapons. He has not said whether that response would be military or whether it would come in the form of sanctions, for example, they're trying to leave Putin guessing here.
And of course, this resolution Adam Kinzinger hopes could serve as a deterrent to Putin if he does choose to use those weapons. Kate?
BOLDUAN: Yes, Natasha, thank you for that.
Joining me now CNN military analyst retired Major General Dana Pittard and former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, John Herbst. General, I do want to start though, with the evacuations somewhat believed to be happening and underway out of Mariupol. If the Russians are allowing evacuations from Mariupol, from the steel
plant and from the city in general, what does this mean for the ongoing battle there? I mean, it's clearly good news if people can get out. But what does it mean?
MAJ. GENERAL DANA PITTARD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, good morning, Kate. I think it's, in fact very encouraging that the Ukrainians and Russians have at least worked out for some of the civilians to depart. So if that, in fact, holds, that is a good thing.
BOLDUAN: Yes. And that -- if it holds is the key here, because we have seen how much anyone in Ukraine and outside can trust the order of the Russian forces allowing for humanitarian corridors, evacuation routes, all of the above, throughout this.
And also Ambassador to what Natasha Bertrand was just talking about, Congressman Adam Kinzinger introducing this resolution that gives President Biden authority to use U.S. military force in Ukraine, if Vladimir Putin would go the route of using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.
What do you think of this as what Adam Kinzinger is really pointing to is as a deterrent, first and foremost?
JOHN E. HERBST, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: It certainly is a deterrent. Putin is trying to bluff us into backing down in Ukraine, not providing support. He's threatening the use of nukes or of chemical weapons.
To say that we will not be deterred as Kinzinger's resolution would is a step forward in our security and Ukrainian security. Putin does not want a nuclear confrontation with us.
BOLDUAN: Generally, this is, I mean, it is an authorization for use of military force. Presidents, though, we know have acted many times in recent years without this authorization. What do you think it means? PITTARD: Well, again, I think it's a good start. And it can be used as a deterrent, certainly as an option. But overall, the U.S. has got to stop being intimidated by Russia and Putin. President Biden has said that he wants no U.S. troops on the ground.
However, I think it's time to at least set up something like a humanitarian assistance zone in western Ukraine, where there are no Russian troops right now. That certainly would help situation on the ground, at least in Western Ukraine and protect refugees and civilians.
BOLDUAN: And the hesitation to do that, this is something you and I have discussed many times throughout the course of this war at this point in General, the hesitation for the United States and allies to do this suggests what to you?
PITTARD: Well, it suggests that we're being intimidated to an extent. This one takes a little bit more spine than we we've shown. We've shown the initiative diplomatically. We've shown it economically. We've shown it information wise.
On the military side, it's mixed, yes, we are outsourcing by sending weapons munitions to Ukraine and let along the fight. But the same time, you know, civilians and freedom is being assaulted. There's more that U.S. should be doing.
BOLDUAN: Ambassador, the Russian Foreign Minister in this interview on Sunday repeating Russia's claim that its invasion of Ukraine was to denazify the country.
And to back up this claim that he's making, he said that Adolf Hitler had in his views, in his words, Jewish blood, which is not only not true, it's also irrelevant to what is being -- what we're talking about, and what is happening. What is he trying to do when he says this, when you heard him say this, what did you think?
HERBST: I started laughing. It's a joke. But what's going on here is pretty simple. Lavrov and the Kremlin understands that in their current war on Ukraine, Putin is Darth Vader, and Zelenskyy is Luke Skywalker.
And they're trying to somehow find make the case that Luke Skywalker is not Luke Skywalker. So that's the meaning of this, but it's just preposterous.
BOLDUAN: What's the impact of it, though? It is be preposterous as it is. What do you think the impact of it is?
HERBST: I think it's a shot. They shoot themselves in the foot with this. Look, when Russia says, when Putin says he wants to denazify Ukraine, he's saying he wants to deUkrainianize Ukraine, which is why some people are talking about Russian war crimes as that part of a genocidal policy because they're trying to do deUkrainianize Ukraine.
They're trying to destroy the Ukrainian people in some fashion. And that's very, very, very, very dangerous.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. General, I was just seeing fresh reporting from Barbara Starr at the Pentagon who's reporting that this top general -- Russian General Gerasimov, the chief of staff of the Russian military, that she -- that -- according Barbara Starr, according to our sources that he was recently in Ukraine, according to a U.S. defense official, the way it's put to Barbara, as we know, he was in Donbass for several days, beginning last week, but the U.S. is uncertain why Gerasimov traveled to the Russian front lines and what signal it sends. What do you think of that? What could it have meant?
PITTARD: General Gerasimov traveling to Ukraine, I mean, it is rare to see the chief of all, you know, Russian forces to actually go to Ukraine. What it signals is, things are not going well for the Russians. And we've seen that. We've seen that logistically, we've seen that command control wise, they've lost maybe up to 10 generals. They're having issues.
And he, I assume, went there to make sure that they understood President Putin's intent and everything else. But it shows that it's not going well for Russians. They are now making some limited offensive gains right now. But they either have the force structure or the ability to move beyond where they are right now.
BOLDUAN: Interesting. Thank you both. It's very good to see you. I really appreciate it.
Coming up for us now, prosecutors in Georgia are launching the next phase of their investigation into Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. What new special Grand Jury means for the former president that is next.
BOLDUAN: Developing at this hour, jury selection is underway in Georgia for a special grand jury that will be investigating whether former President Donald Trump and allies, they broke the law by pressuring election officials there to try to overturn the 2020 election results.
CNN Sara Murray is live in Atlanta with much more on this. So Sara, what is happening now?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this special grand jury has been a long time coming. You know, the district attorney here has been investigating Donald Trump and his allies for over a year today.
They are finally selecting jurors to sit on this special grand jury and really dig in with broader investigative powers. Let's just remember how this all started. You know, it was as soon as the District Attorney Fani Willis took office that an audio tape leaked of Donald Trump talking to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Let's listen to a portion of that call. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So what are we going to do here folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break. You know we have that in spades already.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: So when that infamous call, Trump is insisting over and over again, he won Georgia in 2020, a state he lost. Since then the district attorney here has already spoken to about 50 witnesses voluntarily.
She's looking to subpoena about 30 more and the judge was just giving instructions to potential jurors saying, look, you guys are going to have the power. You're going to have the power to issue subpoenas for witness testimony, to ask for documents to ask for phone records.
If you hear from one guy and he mentioned another guy, you want to talk to that guy, you can ask for a subpoena to hear from additional witnesses. So they're laying that out. They're going to whittle pool about 200 potential jurors down to about 24.
BOLDUAN: So much more to come. Sara, stick with us. Also joining us now is CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on this. Jeffrey, you have called this investigation, the most serious threat that Donald Trump is facing in terms of all of the investigations that have kind of been coming out. Why is that?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the Manhattan grant, the Manhattan district attorney that investigation of Trump's business is effectively over as a criminal matter.
The January 6th investigation by the Justice Department is moving along from the bottom up, and it's unclear if they're ever going to investigate Donald Trump, but they are certainly not there yet. This is a very direct investigation of President Trump and Georgia has a statute called solicitation of election fraud which certainly on the surface suggests what was going on here.
Now no prosecutor in her right mind would indict just on the basis of that phone call. But that phone call is certainly an invitation to look at all the things that the President and his allies were doing to try to overturn the Georgia result. And that's what this grand jury is all about.
BOLDUAN: And this has put a big focus on this district attorney, Sara. And you spoke with the D.A. in February about this investigation. I want to play for everyone something that she told you then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I imagine that we're going to be issuing subpoenas to a lot of people, and then all of them are not going to welcome our invitation to come speak with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: It might be an understatement, Sara. I mean, how big is this investigation? What is the sense you're getting? I mean, how big is this also for this DA?
MURRAY: Yes, well, I mean, they're certainly looking into a number of matters. So beyond what they want to know from Georgia officials like Brad Raffensperger who was talking to Donald Trump.
You know, they've also made it clear that they are looking into Rudy Giuliani giving a presentation for Georgia state lawmakers where he spread a bunch of conspiracies, and looking into a phone call between Lindsey Graham, the senator, and Brad Raffensperger.
So you can imagine if she decides to subpoena people like Rudy Giuliani, people like Mark Meadows. That can be really uncomfortable. This is also a big deal for her. She's a Democrat. People are already looking at this, Republicans in the state as a politically motivated investigation.
And she's thinking resources into this at a time when, you know, there is a lot of rising violent crime here in the Atlanta area, as we're seeing in a number of big cities. So, you know, in a way she has to justify the resources she's putting into this, the time she's putting into this, when a lot of folks here are more concerned about local matters.
TOOBIN: And a key question in this whole investigation is what was Donald Trump's state of mind? Because --
BOLDUAN: Why is that the key question?
TOOBIN: Well, because in order to commit a fraud, you have to know what you're doing is wrong. If you are trying to overturn -- change an election result, and you honestly believe that the election result was wrong, that's not fraud.
BOLDUAN: But also suggests this is going to be, this is very hard to prosecute.
TOOBIN: It's hard, it's hard to prosecute. I mean, fraud is always a state of mind crime. And in white collar crime, you're always as a prosecutor looking for indications that someone knew they were doing something wrong, not that this was some sort of mistake or good faith effort.
And one of the big challenges here is going to be to try to determine if Trump knew that he lost and was just trying to overturn the result by any means possible, or did he really think he won, and he was trying to recover legitimately cast votes.
BOLDUAN: Also make -- I don't know if we call it messy, but wrapped up in this, Jeffrey is the fact that there's a -- the current election that is underway in Georgia as well. I mean, the DA has said like people like the Secretary of State, that
is, in the center of all this and been drawn into this is on the ballot, the DA has said that she's not going to call anyone in have like that official stature until after the primary. But does that make this messy?
TOOBIN: Well, absolutely. I mean, you know, you also have the possibility. I mean, this is going to go on for months. It's not going to be over quickly. Donald Trump could elect, announced he's running for president.
What will the Georgia district attorney do with investigating a presidential candidate? I mean, that, you know, has extreme political implications. I mean, it's a very difficult investigation.
But it's also a very promising investigation, because that phone call alone suggests that the President knew he was doing something wrong, because he just didn't have the votes that he needed.
BOLDUAN: And Sara, I mean, you have new reporting, that during that call that you just played a portion of with Trump, there's new information about an aid Raffensperger, texting Mark Meadows, about how kind of how uncomfortable and bad this was all unfolding to be. How does that fold into this?
MURRAY: Yes, well, you know, I think we've seen a lot of the chaos that sort of happened after the call was made public, but these are text messages that were handed over to the January 6th Committee and then were brought up in a little notice court filing, in which Jordan Fuchs, who's a top aide to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is texting Mark Meadows during the call and saying.
I need to end this call. I don't think you'll be productive much longer. Meadow says OK. And she says, let's save the relationship.
You know, this gives you an idea of sort of how uncomfortable, how kind of frantic, even a call was as it was ongoing. And this is important because this Georgia investigation is not happening in a vacuum. The district attorney's office here is paying attention to what the House Select Committee is uncovering it, is uncovering during their investigation.
You know, they've talked a little bit about potential avenues for information sharing, but certainly now the district attorney knows if she goes and subpoenas Mark Meadows text messages, for instance. She's going to find this kind of stuff in there.
TOOBIN: Everyone, so many people involved in this investigation are themselves elected officials, the district attorney, the Secretary of State. It's a big issue in the Georgia governor's race which is ongoing now. So I mean that's just another level of complexity in this investigation.
BOLDUAN: There's like, like innumerable levels of complexity that I'm saying is we're talking about this. It's good to see you, Jeffrey, thank you. Sara, thank you so much.
Coming up for us, millions of Ukrainian civilians have been forced to flee their homes, of course, as Russia's unprovoked attack on their country rages on. Up next, we're going to speak to a mother now in Poland about her escape to safety. And what she's doing this time now, next.